From the Artemis I lunar mission to groundbreaking images from the James Webb Telescope to the remarkable success of the DART mission, 2022 is shaping up to be one of NASA’s best years yet. Here is a non-exhaustive list of all these achievements.
Preparations for human lunar exploration
One of the most notable missions was probably Artemis 1, which marked the beginning of an ambitious lunar program. Send people back to the moon. This year, NASA successfully launched its SLS rocket for the first time, putting the Orion spacecraft on a longer trajectory than any spacecraft ever built to carry astronauts. Both cars performed better than expected.
NASA also achieved other important milestones in the Artemis program, ensuring long-term exploration of the Moon and its surroundings. For example, the agency has identified thirteen potential landing zones at the lunar south pole. It also selected Axiom Space to develop future astronaut spacesuits and modified a contract to SpaceX to build an upgraded version of its Starship human landing system for the Artemis 4 mission.
Maintaining a human presence in low Earth orbit
This year, NASA and SpaceX continued to successfully launch astronauts to and from the International Space Station. it was 22nd consecutive year of humans on board the orbital laboratory. In parallel, Boeing finally successfully launched its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, completing its uncrewed orbital flight test on the station. This capsule will soon be able to launch astronauts as well.
Station crews hosted NASA’s first private astronaut mission, Axiom 1, which will advance the agency’s goal of commercializing low Earth orbit.
NASA astronauts also continue to install new ISS solar panels. It is expected that their power generation capacity will increase by up to 30% later.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus vessel also completed its first station boost. Normally, this ability to climb into orbit of the ISS was reserved only for the Russians.
Solar system and beyond
The James Webb Telescope has been successfully launched. Since then, the observatory has been able to capture images of galaxies that have never been seen before. He also studied the atmospheres of several exoplanets and provided new views of planets in our own solar system.
The DART mission was also successful, as part of which the target hit the asteroid as planned. World’s first planetary defense test. For its part, the Hubble Space Telescope found the most distant individual star ever seen, whose light took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth.
Meanwhile, we’ve passed the 5,000 known exoplanet mark. These include small rocky planets like Earth, gas giants several times larger than Jupiter, or “hot Jupiters” that evolved very close to their stars.
NASA and ESA have reached an agreement to return Martian samples collected by Persistence as part of an unprecedented large-scale mission. Analysis of these samples over the next decade may reveal that Signs of past extraterrestrial life. During this time, Ingenuity chained powered flights to the Red Planet. Most recently, the helicopter set a new altitude record.
Finally, NASA continues to advance its space exploration capabilities by engaging entrepreneurs, researchers, and inventors across the United States. These efforts enabled the launch of Capstone, a small satellite being tested in a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon. This highly elliptical orbit will be occupied by the future space station that will support the Artemis mission.
These new partnerships also made it possible to test LOFTID, a prototype heat shield that could eventually be used to deliver heavy loads to habitat modules such as those on Mars.